Liberia, in the view of many outsiders, continues to remain a conundrum in study. This is primarily because in Liberia, individuals virtually take over the state and subvert its interests to their personal interests. Unlike other African countries where the distinction between public and private interests is readily discernible, it is to the contrary in Liberia.
This has been a perennial problem in Liberia where officials in public service are unable and deliberately so, to distinguish between their private interests and those of the state.
During the reign of Charles Taylor, for example, legitimate bodies and instruments of state were all commingled with the personal interests of Charles Taylor.
The passage for instance of the Strategic Commodities Act under which all and every mineral resource of Liberia was labelled as strategic requiring the personal approval of Charles Taylor for export of any natural or mineral resource. The Central Bank of Liberia like other revenue generating entities became his virtual cash cows and at one point the Bank operated from his White Flower residence.
Under President Sirleaf, this practice continued, howbeit in in cleverly masked forms.
For example the Liberia Educational Trust (LET) which was said to have received donor funding again controlled directly or indirectly by President Sirleaf. Those institutions are now said to have folded up since her departure from office. But just how much was received in donor funding for both organizations remain a mystery. Also included is the US$10 million paid by ExxonMobil to Robert Sirleaf to undertake some development projects. The money remans unaccounted for today.
Fast forward to the tenure of President Weah, the same pattern of behavior is emerging and is becoming readily discernible. One current example is the COVID-19 response effort which is by his own dubbing, the “Weah Project”.
Also too is the Clar-Weah Foundation established with US$10 million as seed money, allocated from the national budget. There is no evidence of her having established any foundation throughout her marriage to mercurial football star George Weah despite the millions he reportedly earned. But right after his election as President of Liberia did Madame Weah see it fit to establish such a foundation.
Similarly placed too is Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor. Throughout her association with then rebel leader Charles Taylor and later President, such thoughts of establishing a humanitarian foundation probably never figured in her considerations, not even after serving as Senator of Bong County for 9 years. But once becoming Vice President of Liberia, Presto, the Jewel Starfish Foundation is born. And the COVID-19 response is also the Jewel Howard Taylor Project.
Other examples are House Speaker Bhofal Chambers and Representatives Jeremiah Koung now an aspiring Senator of Nimba County who have been accused of having manipulated the budget after it had been passed into law. Thousands of dollars were reported to have gone to finance a private clinic/hospital built by Representative Koung.
Also, was Speaker Chambers who had allocated thousands of dollars allegedly to himself but under the guise of a donation to the Catholic run St. Francis Hospital while the government run clinic in Pleebo, Sodoken District was left unattended. Quite recently, a local newspaper, Frontpage Africa reported that AFL soldiers and equipment were being used to mine gold in Grand Kru County for President Weah. Of course, the AFL leadership was quick to issue a statement of denial.
And as recently reported by the Daily Observer in its June 25, 2020 edition, a COVID-19 treatment center has been identified in Ganta, Nimba County. It is a private hospital owned and managed by the wife of Representative and senatorial aspirant Jeremiah Koung under a 10-year lease agreement.
There we go again. Having illegally benefitted from budget manipulations to fund this very private hospital, the senatorial aspirant is now “leasing out” the hospital to the Government for a period of 10 unbroken years.
Does this suggest that the COVID-19 is going to remain a threat in Nimba for the next ten years that warrants the lease of the facility to government for such a prolonged period or is this simply being used as a convenient subterfuge under which state funds can be siphoned into private pockets?
Of additional concern is whether the lease arrangements were done in a transparent manner. Critics contend that if the senatorial aspirant is truly indeed concerned about the people as he professes to be, then he should be prepared to offer a section of his hospital to accommodate COVID-19 patients since the outbreak is not expected to last for such a prolonged period of 10 years.
How long can the Liberian people tolerate such predatory behavior by officials in whom they have reposed their hopes and trust starting from the highest to the lowest level? How long can they continue to bear the very difficult economic hardships imposed on them by official corruption and bad governance in general?
The answer can be found on the pages of history. George Weah may be a great man indeed, considering his outstanding accomplishments in the world of football but, “Great Men” do not make history. As the great Chinese leader Mao-tse Tung once said, “The people and the people alone are the makers of history”. And at the appropriate time they will act.